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Moria was a roguelike computer game in a style somewhat different from NetHack. Moria and its variants were, and are, popular enough to rival NetHack; some classifications divide roguelike games between "hacklikes" and "bands", the latter being named after the most famous Moria variant, Angband.

Moria is named for the underground city of Moria, a location in J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth. Moria and most of its variants have a Middle-earth theme; the original goal, retained in all variants that retain the Moria name, is to go to the bottom of the dungeon and fight the Balrog.

Moria references in NetHack[]

The hallucinatory monsters of NetHack include some monsters from Moria. When hallucinating, you may find:

In the source code, NetHack credits the dragon to Moria. Ents appear in some Moria variants, but NetHack credits the Ent to the original source, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

Moria and NetHack also share some elements from Middle-earth. These include lembas wafers, mithril objects, and monsters such as the hobbit and the balrog.


  1. Rogue was the first roguelike game. Rogue started as a binary for BSD, then a variant of Unix running on VAX hardware. Because Rogue did not include its source code and originally ran only on one platform, several Rogue clones came into existence.
  2. For computers running VMS, the first Rogue clone was Moria, started in 1983. The port from VMS and Pascal to Unix and C was Umoria; Angband is one of several variants of Umoria, while Imoria is a variant of the original Pascal version.
  3. Meanwhile, on Unix appeared a free Rogue clone, Hack, of which NetHack is a variant.

In Rogue, the goal was to obtain an Amulet of Yendor. Moria deviated from Rogue by featuring a town above the dungeon and by not featuring the Amulet; the goal was to kill a balrog.

Hack, though retaining the Amulet, added features like persistent levels, pets, and shops. NetHack changed the game even more with additions like dungeon branches.

Development of the original Moria essentially ended in the late 1980s, while development of Umoria ended in 1995, and development of other non-Angband variants of Moria mostly ended in 1993, except for an attempt to resuscitate Imoria. However development of Angband and its derivatives continues to this day. Moria has always had multitudes of variants and patches; thus its community considered Umoria, VMS Moria, and in later eras Angband, to be vanilla versions similar to NetHack, in contrast to variants like ZAngband, IMoria, or Pmoria, which are analogous to NetHack Plus or SLASH.


NetHack is free and open source software under its NetHack General Public License. Moria and its variants originally used a license which prohibited selling copies of the game. The practical effect of this is that operating systems like Debian originally classified NetHack as "free" and Moria as "non-free", and refused to include Moria when selling discs of the system. The Angband OpenSource Initiative was a successful attempt to change this: on January 9, 2009[1], Angband and Moria were completely dual licensed under the Moria license, and the GNU General Public License. (Moria had in fact been so dual licensed some time earlier, thanks to its lower number of contributors.)

The Moria license also did not contain explicit permission to modify the game, but modification is a strong tradition of the Moria community.


Know firstly that Moria is a much longer game than NetHack. This is a consequence of the vastness of Moria's dungeon. It may take weeks and months to play an Moria character from the beginning to the triumph over the Balrog (or to a late but permanent death).

The town[]

Moria added a town just outside the dungeon entrance. While NetHack players cannot leave the dungeon until they find the Amulet of Yendor, Moria and Angband players can repeatedly visit the town, using the services and shops. Central to Moria is the Scroll of Word of Recall, an item that warps you between town and the deepest visited dungeon level. Some Angband variants even let you leave town to find other dungeons and towns, while the Moria variant BOSS automatically transports you to another town, with a more difficult dungeon, after defeating one of the Boss's lieutenants.

The NetHack Guidebook makes clear that the entrance to the dungeon is nowhere near town; thus one can guess that this is why leaving the dungeon without the Amulet ends your game:

"You spend one last night fortifying yourself at the local inn, becoming more and more depressed as you watch the odds of your success being posted on the inn's walls getting lower and lower.
"In the morning you awake, collect your belongings, and set off for the dungeon. After several days of uneventful travel, you see the ancient ruins that mark the entrance to the Mazes of Menace." – NetHack Guidebook, Chapter 1 "Introduction"

Moria shops are somewhat less fun than the ones in NetHack; the game has a menu at each shop entrance. Pets or monsters cannot enter shops or take items. Forget about grabbing some items and reading a scroll of teleportation to escape; all items are "behind the counter" and commands like reading do not work in shops. There also is no way to attack and kill a shopkeeper.

Items in shops are identified, so shopkeepers will not bother selling cursed items or useless stuff (like the potion of blindness). You can also identify things by selling them; this is great for unknown scrolls, potions, and magical devices from the dungeon; this helps, because the number of different potions, scrolls etc. is several times greater than in Nethack. There is no "price identification" because shopkeepers never identify items until after they buy them. Instead, shopkeepers pay a base price for unidentified items.

Shops are reliable sources of food and basic items; beginners can supply themselves well if they have money, however the dungeon is the only source of better and more enchanted items. Food supply is limitless and thus largely a non-factor unless one is playing an "ironman game", forbidding access to the town.

The dungeon[]

In Moria, there are two ways to label dungeon levels: by number (1, 2, 3, 4) as in NetHack, or by depth (50 feet, 100 feet, 150', 200') where the depth is fifty times the level number.

Dungeon levels are much larger in Moria than in NetHack. Each NetHack level fits on a screen, unless your screen is smaller than the common 80-by-24 hardware terminals. Most Moria levels are much larger and must be split into panels.

(There is an option to center the screen on the @, as in Linley's Dungeon Crawl, but the game typically disables this by default. Instead, the map jumps to another panel as you approach the edge. You might also experience surprise attacks from offscreen monsters as you approach the edge. So you may want to enable that center_player option.)

Larger levels make room for larger rooms and longer corridors. Each level takes longer to explore; in fact some Moria players will take the first staircase instead of fully exploring a level.

Dungeons are also drawn differently. For example, a NetHack room and corridor might appear like this:

----------         #
|........|     ########+     +   door
|..{.....|     #   #         -   open door
|..@.....|   ###   #         @   hero
|........-####     #         - | wall
|......d.|         #         d   dog
|.%......|         #         %   food ration
----------         #

Now here is how it might appear in the dungeon of Moria:

##########    #####+####
#........#    #...'.'..+     + door
#........#  ###.###'####     ' open door
#..@.....####...# #.#        @ hero
#........'....### #.#        # wall
#......j.######   #.#        j jackal
#.,......#        #.#        , food ration
##########        #.#

Moria does not have persistent levels. If you return to the same depth, Moria generates a new level with new monsters and items. Accordingly, staircases in Moria are one-way, although this was changed in Angband. Because you cannot revisit a level, Moria players do not leave stashes of items like NetHack players would, or leave them only in the town (where they may still be disturbed, by the town's other inhabitants).


As you fight monsters in Moria, the game will gradually memorise their capabilities. Fight enough of a particular monster, and the game's monster memory will describe how many times you killed each type, how fast the monster moves, what attacks it has, and what level it normally appears on. Moria also has the odd feature that you retain your monster memory after death, when using the same save file to start a new character. This features were added in version 5 of Umoria; they were not present in earlier versions, or in variants based on them.

NetHack only gives a vague description of the monster, usually a quote from literature. When playing NetHack, you must remember those monsters yourself, or consult some bestiary of spoilers.

When using a ranged attack, Moria lets any nearby monster target you; NetHack restricts them to firing in eight directions. The Umoria variant Morgul granted this power to the player also, and it quickly spread to Angband and its variants. But Moria did not allow monsters to target around corners or pillars, so players with sufficiently high speed could exploit this to attack monsters while preventing them from seeing to target the player. This technique was known as "pillardancing."


NetHack has plenty of ways to make objects surprise the unspoiled player: blessed, cursed, and uncursed objects, erodeproof objects, greased objects, and objects with enchantment bonuses and charges.

Moria objects have some of these characteristics, however not in the same way. NetHack applies a B/U/C system to all items, and NetHack curses can have many undesirable effects, such as less healthy potions. However, a Moria curse is only a "tag on" property of the item that prevents you from taking it off, but does not normally degrade the item. (Like NetHack, Moria does generate cursed weapons and armor with negative enchantments.)

In lieu of artifacts, Moria has Ego items; these can appear in unlimited numbers, but have extra properties: a Scimitar might have a Frost brand, making it a Scimitar of Frost, which does extra cold damage and provides cold resistance.

The Scroll of Identify does not reveal all these advanced properties (it only gives the two-letter code for the ego-type), and one must read the manual to determine what the ego-types do.

Probabilities control the generation of items in both games. These probabilities remain uniform in NetHack across dungeon levels, though they differ between branches; this is why the Gnomish Mines has more tools. But in Moria, each item has an associated dungeon depth. In general, Moria items become progressively more powerful as the hero descends deeper into the dungeon. Down there, weapons and armor have better enchantments, and there are more and better artifacts. Likewise, the more powerful wands, scrolls, etc will appear more frequently at deeper levels.

Both NetHack and Moria players can wield weapons (Moria has both an active and a spare weapon slot, with a command to quickly swap the two), wear armor (in several armor slots), and put on rings and amulets. In Moria, wearing something frees an inventory slot, which is nice because Moria only has 22 slots (a to v). Even when counting equipment slots, Moria still has fewer slots than NetHack, which gives you 52 slots (a to z and A to Z). In addition, NetHack has containers like bags and chests to hold many screenfuls of items; Moria does not.

So how do Moria players save slots? They find spellbooks with multiple spells. They become so wealthy that they need not gather items to sell. Moria has no gems and fewer miscellaneous tools than NetHack, so that frees up many slots. The most important kinds of miscellaneous tools, light sources, have a dedicated slot, and the second most important, the digging implements, can be put in the "spare weapon" slot.


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